DEPUTIES, who had unquestioningly approved the squandering of hundreds of millions of euro from state coffers over the years, have decided to the take a hard-line on the spending on cars for state officials. According to reports, use and maintenance of these luxury cars – engines above 2 litres – costs the taxpayer €500,000 a year, so any saving, through reducing the number of eligible officials (currently 51), would not make any difference to public finances.
Why then have deputies made such a big fuss about the matter? We suspect the reason this was turned into a major issue was because the House finance committee refused to approve the release of €43,000 for the purchase of a brand new luxury car for former president Demetris Christofias, who has been using the presidential limo while awaiting the delivery of his new set of wheels. The committee postponed its decision on the expenditure of the second time on Monday.
Meanwhile, AKEL deputies, in an attempt to deflect attention away from Christofias and prove that he was not receiving preferential treatment, have raised the broader issue, which was no bad thing. In all, there are 51 state officials entitled to a ‘company car’, including six former presidents of the Republic and of the House, commissioners, ministry permanent secretaries, commission heads etc. And why on earth is the deputy Attorney-General entitled to a government car? We do not know how many of these cars are provided with a state-paid chauffeur that would be an addition to the total annual cost.
Even though the amounts being spent would not break the bank, the general practice is ludicrous, as it is based on the idea that big cars for state officials enhance the status and importance of our small state. As for retiree presidents of the Republic and the legislature, why on earth must the taxpayer pay for their car and its running expenses for as long as they live? They receive an ultra-generous retirement bonus and a very high state pension which is more than adequate reward for their services.
This waste of the taxpayer’s money may have been acceptable when we were living beyond our means, under the illusion we had a wealthy state, but now we are bankrupt it should stop.
Only the president and his ministers should be entitled to government cars and with the exception of the president’s these should not have bigger than two-litre engines. The rest of top state officials should use their own car and receive a travel allowance. As for former presidents, they should not be entitled to a government car, but if the state does not want to take them back, they should at least pay all the running and maintenance expenses.
This would be a better arrangement, especially now the state has no money, but we suspect deputies will never amend the law. They made a fuss over the Christofias car, for publicity purposes, and will forget the matter before long.